By Beth Pacheco — This program was born out of the realization of the need for bicycle education, training and guidance in Salt Lake County. Our community is growing rapidly which increases the benefits of bicycling, both to the individual and the community. Bicycling provides pollution free and inexpensive transportation alternatives, health benefits, community and family building opportunities and increases the awareness of cyclists on the road, making it safer for everyone. It’s also just plain fun!
This is where the Bicycle Ambassadors step in. We are not about fast paced rides or wearing lycra. Some of us may choose those things on our own time, but as Ambassadors we are a community resource focused on getting more people on bikes. The Ambassadors are a diverse group made up of men and women of all ages (18+), many interests and occupations and varying levels of cycling experience and wrenching skills. Yes, a couple are competitive cyclists, but mainly we all love bicycling and want to share our passion with others. We work to increase safe, informed and confident ridership through education, working with new cyclists and promoting bicycle travel for both recreation and utility purposes. We would like nothing more than to find the streets packed with people of all ages, nationalities and income levels riding to work, to the store or out with friends and family.
One of our newest Ambassadors is University of Utah student, Austin Richards, who received his first bike just a few months ago and says “It’s changed his life!” and that being an Ambassador is a “blast!”. Long time Ambassador Josalyn Bates is a full time commuter, along with her husband and 10 year old son. She became an Ambassador after experiencing advanced cycling cultures in other countries and wanted to help develop that culture in Utah. She says that “the roads are much more safe when there are more cyclists”.
How do we accomplish these goals? We are focusing on a few specific areas and expect to increase our capacity as we grow our Ambassador team. In fall 2017, we rolled out the Bicycling Basics series. This bi-weekly series offers 15-45 minutes of instruction/discussion followed by a casual group ride where together we explore trails, bike lanes and roads in Salt Lake County. It’s a great way to gain confidence riding with other “vehicles”. We’ve partnered with Bike Shops all over Salt Lake County to offer a variety of topics, covering what we consider barriers that keep folks from getting out on their bicycle, with a few fun options thrown in. These include “Fixing a Flat”, “Basic Bike Maintenance”, “Taking Your Bike on the Bus” and “Yoga and Cycling”. Our 2018 Bicycling Basics Series debuts on March 29th. See our great lineup at www.slco.org/bikes and on Facebook.
Our newest initiative is the Adult Learn to Ride Class. With the generosity of Salt Lake County, Salt Lake County Bicycle Advisory Committee, Trek SLC, and Guthrie Bicycles, we have our own fleet of 5 bicycles, helmets and everything we need to teach people to ride.
We are really stoked about this class! Our goal is to enable adults to ride safely and confidently with their kids, to work and everywhere else. How cool is that? We begin with an indoor class in February at a local Elementary School and plan to offer this 2 session class each month at different locations in Salt Lake County, continuing with the Sorenson Unity Center in April.
Last, we serve as a community resource, providing support and education opportunities for local events such as the Bike Rodeo at the Safe Kids Fair on February 24th and Open Streets SLC on May 5th as well as tabling at local Farmer’s Markets and other events.
Does this sound like a fun and rewarding way to spend a few hours per month? If so, please consider joining our team and share your expertise and love of cycling with others. We welcome all, but are particularly looking for bilingual speakers to help us reach the often underserved areas in our diverse community. Learn more about our program, responsibilities and rewards at www.slco.org/bikes then reach out to Beth at [email protected] or call 309-241-0966.